I was going to call this post something like “C’est La Vie, Paris,” but let’s be honest, “J’Barfed” is a hilarious turn of phrase.
I really did barf — multiple times — on our second-to-last night. But no hard feelings, Paris.
So it took me a few weeks to hit the blog with news of our trip, because I was still processing and feeling unwell. Honestly, I’m not sure whether my stomach betrayed me (due to sensitivity, fatigue, jet lag, etc.), or we were hit with food poisoning or what. Sam and I were both ill by the end, in different digestive directions. So it wasn’t just me!
Before we went to Paris I was in kind of a weird funk about the Los Angeles restaurant scene, in that I’ll go to try a hyped new place and… probably 80+ percent of the time, the expectations are not met. It feels like everything is just Instagram hype. But maybe that’s a story for another time.
Anyway, I headed to Paris ready for it to be amazing and restore my faith in dining, humanity, wine… you know, just small stuff.
This trip was partly an experiment to answer this question: Can we take a “long weekend” to one European city, the way an East Coaster might be able to do? The answer is… yes and no. It’s possible, but it’ll take a lot out of you. Especially if it’s a city like Paris where it’s hard to resist the pull to see and do as much as you can.
Overall, Paris was great! I think anything that befell us was partially due to the user error of being first-timers. (Okay, it was my second time but the first time I ate pretty much bread and jam and didn’t dine out, so in a food sense it was my first time.)
So anyway, I’m going to talk about some things we did wrong and things we did right, and things I’d want to do next time. I might forget some things.
Things We Did Mostly Right:
-Stayed in a walkable neighborhood (with good Metro access).
We stayed on the Ile St. Louis in the 4th, which turned out to be an easy walk from the areas we suspected we’d like and want to explore (the Marais, St. German, Bastille area, Latin Quarter, etc.). We ended up walking or taking the Metro almost everywhere, although in many cases the Metro didn’t necessarily save a ton of time.
-Got into that bistro/snack life.
We ate breakfast two mornings in a row at Cafe St. Regis and found it to be an incredibly charming experience. The old-school decor, the dumbwaiter cage thing that came up out of the ground (a common occurrence in Paris), the same waiters both days. It took me two days to figure out how to order what the locals seemed to be eating (a buttered baguette… don’t laugh, the first day I accidentally mistook that with toast on the menu). Also, the orange juice was fresh-squeezed.
Pretty much every corner has a good-looking bistro with outdoor tables and chairs facing the street, which is just about heaven for sore, blistered feet. Because it was the off-season, I guess, we were always able to sit right away, even at a cafe right across from the Opera Garnier.
You can order a full meal at a bistro, but you are also good to just order a snack or a drink and watch the foot traffic. People-watching is especially easy because all seats face out, so you can lean into each other and whisper, “French dad-bod Mark Ruffalo! Celine Dion if she never got famous!” You can also order drinks with just a little bit of fruit syrup added to them, which is up my alley.
I found out after the fact that a drink I was seeking, a “panache” (basically a shandy made from beer and lemonade) is something you have to ask for off-menu.
Next time I’d log EVEN MORE time at bistros/brasseries, etc. And finally get my panache.
But like honestly don’t cry for us because we did eat a lot of good stuff. We just COULD HAVE EATEN MORE. (We lost a day after we fell ill… more on that below.)
-Didn’t attempt to hit up every museum and tourist site.
Since I’d been to Paris before and know that Sam and I love impressionism but aren’t particularly into Renaissance or antiquity art (… sorry?), I was able to advise that we skip the Louvre and sub in Musee d’Orsay, Everything about d’Orsay is magical to me… it’s full of impressionist art, it’s in an old train station, you can look through the clocks and out across the city. Highly recommend.
We also didn’t go UP the Eiffel Tower. Even though it was the off-season, we jettisoned everything that might take up the better part of a day. (Other than Versailles. We went to Versailles.)
I think Sam might argue that we still did maybe more than a rational person would attempt, but I would counter-argue that it could have been worse! We could have attempted the Pompidou on tired feet! (We skipped that too.)
Some museums/sites that lived up to the hype were L’Orangerie (I really enjoyed the downstairs collection as well as the big Monets), the Picasso Museum, the Opera Garnier and… well, it’s not a museum but Sainte-Chappelle. It’s a small church chock-full of stained glass windows, and it’s weirdly within the courthouse area so you wait in the security line next to the “people going to court” line. I saw a lawyer (judge?) in robes. It was wild!
Also, the war paintings museum (?) and canal/gardens of Versailles are kind of better (and way less crowded) than the main chateau, which is literally stuffed with tourists.
Oh, but at the Opera Garnier I thought there would be a man dressed as the Phantom sneaking around and there WAS NOT. I also thought they’d take us into more nooks and crannies, because the model of the Opera House at d’Orsay shows you that it’s MASSIVE and has a zillion levels. But… c’est la vie. I was not rowed through the sewers by an opera-singing Phantom. (NEXT LIFE.)
Strangely enough, I think for next time, we’d try to do EVEN LESS. Haha. (More on that below.)
Usually I’m not much of a shopper, but I really enjoyed wandering through the shops of Paris. Not on Champs Elysee, but in places like La Marais. The Merci shop was so cute! And the Galeries Lafayette was one of my favorite places! (You have to go to the roof… it has a rooftop sustainability garden thing, a great view, a VR EXPERIENCE, and more!)
I was also glad that we only officially scheduled about one major thing per day, because it gave us the time to wander off our itinerary when told that we must visit Galeries Lafayette, and to make further time to go BACK to Galeries Lafayette a second time. (I only actually purchased one item but it was just a cool place, okay??)
That’s one thing for next time — I’m bad at making purchases. I bought one shirt, but I’d like to buy a few more things while traveling to take home.
-Got off the beaten path.
During our trip to Versailles we met up with a local friend who took us away from the tourists for a few hours. If you can ever do that while on vacation, I recommend it.
-Took a food tour.
Paris has a lot of markets, and having a local go into the best ones and order an assortment of food for our enjoyment was wonderful. (Our tour was of the Latin Quarter/Rue Mouffetard.) We learned about the history of the neighborhood and the vendors, and… we got to eat cheese, eclairs, salami, chocolate, lemon tarts, duck rillette, etc. And bread!
-Went into a Monoprix and a grocery store.
I love taking a look into local stores when I’m traveling, and buying their interesting flavors of chips. (And cool braided hair ties, which turned out to be MVPs when I barfed!)
-Finished it off like champs even though we got sick.
We weren’t even sure that morning if we could get out of bed, but we did it and we walked more than I’d typically walk in full health, and ended the day at the base of the Eiffel freakin’ Tower. (We even walked UP ALL THE STEPS to Sacre-Coeur, because we didn’t know about the funicular until we got to the top… now YOU know.)
-Realized that the wackiest selfies are the best selfies.
Life is silly like that.
Things We Did Wrong-ish:
-Sometimes prioritized the itinerary when we should have followed our noses.
Paris is a big city and we tried to see it all, sometimes at the expense of digging deeper into interesting pockets. (Maybe this is a bad metaphor for Paris but our particular pockets didn’t get picked.)
The markets on the Rue Mouffetard were delightful and we wanted to go back and eat so many things we didn’t get a chance to try on our tour. Instead, we… didn’t? I have pictures of a bunch of food that’s on my “why in the world didn’t you try this, you’re definitely trying it next time” list. (Rotisserie chicken, quiche, sandwiches…)
-Cared about macarons.
Macarons are already pretty big in Los Angeles… I mean, we have a Laduree. Knowing that I am hit-or-miss about macarons, I led us on a macaron-finding expedition. Later that night, I barfed. Not sure if that’s a cause-and-effect thing, but if I went back I would definitely focus on the savories (see above) and in the sweets department I’d try things that are more Paris-specific, like a mille-feuille.
On the other hand, the macaron search took us to Rue des Martyrs, which I loved.
Also — vanity alert — one of my favorite pictures is of me holding up macarons in front of a store window. But we should have ordered bread from this place, because that was clearly what the locals were doing. DO WHAT THE LOCALS ARE DOING.
Like I said, not really sure how that happened, but it wiped out our ability to do any food adventuring on the last day. When we ducked into a McDonalds during a rain storm on Champs Elysees, I couldn’t even try the deluxe potato wedges, which was very upsetting.
I keep looking back at what we leading up to my night of barfs and thinking — is it because I drank orange juice and espresso at the same meal? Is it because we snacked on hot chocolate and bolognese-flavored chips? Is it because we had cake for lunch? Is it because we went on a macaron hunt? Am I allergic to wine? Or was it just bad falafel?
So in general, maybe next time I’ll be more in tune with my sensitive stomach, rather than just being like, GET ON BOARD! It’s not always able to get on board, even if other people’s stomachs would be like, I GOT THIS.
-Didn’t build in enough relaxation time.
Looking back on our honeymoon, we alternated a little more between city time and country time. Probably our favorite part was just chilling out with no particular plans in Tuscany, waiting for our agriturismo to feed us home-cooked, home-grown meals. Of course, that was a 12 day trip. This was 4. So down-time kind of got lost in the sauce. Like I said, not enough bistro hanging.
-Tried to get into wine (again).
Here at home, I’m not much of a wine drinker. If I do drink, I usually opt for something sweet and white, but it tends to give me headaches.
Back to our honeymoon, I actually did feel sick by the end (but didn’t barf), and attributed it to my attempts to get into wine. I’m not talking like I drank a bottle of wine with every meal. I’m talking maybe one or two glasses a day. And attempting to drink red was especially brutal.
This trip, I once again gamely attempted to expand my wine palate. Once again, it didn’t work out.
In conclusion: I might be allergic to wine? Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, time to get into panaches…
Some General Observations:
-The rest of the world has insulation and over-heating when it’s cold out.
When it’s cold in CA, it’s cold inside AND out. Like, I wear extras jackets in my house while I watch TV.
I went to Paris with sweaters and scarves and extra fleece and then ended up sweating and carrying around extra clothes all day (or coat-checking them), until I figured out that all I really needed to wear was something short-sleeved and my rain coat over it.
So I guess the moral is, always have a super-cute short-sleeved bottom layer, especially in cold places.
-Ice cream scoops are really tiny in Paris.
They’re like… one tablespoon. At Berthillon at least. Order a few scoops.
–Be mindful of whether you’re traveling in the peak or the off-season.
Honestly I can’t figure out if going to Paris in the off-season is a pro or a con. On one hand, most of the museums were between exhibits, the Versailles fountain shows weren’t happening, and Monet’s gardens in Giverny were closed. On the other hand, we got into great restaurants (Verjus, Clamato, Huitrere Regis) without any wait, it was oyster season, and didn’t deal with crazy lines. And Paris in the rain is a little dreary but feels kind of appropriate. So this one’s a draw.
-Instagram is wacky.
Watching influencers take photos at tourist sites (and also in my own neighborhood) gives me all the cringes.
One thing that’s confusing in general about this social media age is the way that people really seem to do things “for the ‘gram” more than for the experience itself. I really have to stop sometimes and ask myself — is this just for a picture? If so, is that enough of a reason to do it? Sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes it’s no. I think it’s a no if it’s really for other people and not for me.
But anyway, now I have been to Paris as an adult, learned some lessons not only about art and cheese but about myself and my travel tendencies, and am ready to apply them to future trips.
I’m going to call it a win-win!
In our Lyft home from LAX I told Sam that I don’t need to travel for a while, but literally the next day I booked a trip to Austin… and I’ll be there on Friday! (With my sisters… Sam is wisely refraining from further vacation for a beat.)
So I hope to apply some of these lessons to that trip. Fingers crossed that my stomach behaves… it’s the wild card.
Also, it’s cherry blossom season in Japan, which means that my feed is full of people enjoying Japan. I really need to get my stomach in order for a trip like that, which is next on my major-international-trip list. (It’s actually kind of a bad theme that I get stomach-fucked-up while traveling, so I might legit go to a doctor or allergist or something…)